Pay it forward

Pay it forward

I’ve been thinking a lot recently on the difficulties faced by independent authors like myself. The indie author community is very supportive of each other when it comes to the writing process. We encourage and congratulate, offer tips and advice, yet when it comes to talking about independent books we tend to focus predominantly on our own work. I am as guilty of this as many. But a number of things have happened recently that have made me decide to change.

How independent musicians support each other

As some of you long-term readers will know, I used to review the monthly Live at the Cottage gig that is held every month in my local village. These gigs attract high quality unsigned acts, most of which make a living through performing live and selling their independently produced CD’s. There are many similarities between what they are doing and what we, as independent authors, are looking to achieve, and that is to make what they produce available and seen by the widest audience possible.

One thing that has impressed me with many of these musicians is their generosity to their fellow performers. Despite the falling number of live music venues, these musicians often recommend other artists to venues and promoters, as well as offering support slots to give others artists chance to become better known. The other thing that they are happy to do is put their money where their mouth is and buy the work of other independent artists. I spoke to a couple of artists at a recent gig and when they found out I was an independent author they both bought my book without hesitation. Why? Well in the words of one “you’ve paid to see me, it’s the least I can do.”

Book club

I was approached the other day by somebody who had bought my book to tell me how much she had enjoyed it, even though it was “not the type of book she would normally read.” I’ve heard this a number of times from different people, and the phrase is also used in a couple of Amazon reviews. What she said next, though, was great. She used to read all the same type of book but then joined a book club to get her out of her comfort zone. Since then she has discovered a number of books that she loves which she would never have read otherwise. She also said she would recommend my book for them to read (which was very kind).

Promotional sites

There are a number of sites that offer to promote your books. Some are very effective, having built up mailing lists and being selective about what they promote, but many use twitter to bombard you with promos every two minutes. I’ve also seen a number of indie authors use the same tactic, whether to promote their own work or in promoting the work of others. There may be some mileage in this because why do it otherwise, but to me it just comes across as noise. When somebody recommends a book, I want to believe they have read it and enjoyed it.

So where is this leading?

I buy and read a lot of books yet very few, until recently, have been written by independent authors. I have been happy to take advantage of  the many free books on offer – often the first in a series – but rarely move on to buying the next in line. Most of the books I do read are by established authors and like my good blogging friend Jools said in her most recent blog, I am a completer. Once I’ve read a book from an author I like, I want to read everything that they read. This leaves very little time for anyone new to get a look in.

Yet at the same time as an indie author I am desperate for people to buy my book and leave a review. A number of people have been kind enough to do this, but there is a long way to go before I could say I was earning enough to live on, and I know that most indie authors are face the same issues. So it is a little hypocritical of me to on the one hand ask people to buy my book yet not do the same for others.

Pay it forward

I’ve decided that it was time to put something back into the indie author community. I will commit to buying (actually I’ve already started) books by other independent authors, being open-minded about genre or type, initially focussing on those I have discovered through blogging. If I like the book I will post about it on this site under a new series called Recommended Reads. This won’t be a traditional review – if I don’t like a book I’ve bought I won’t say anything (because the fault may well sit with me) – but a series of recommendations of those books I genuinely like. I will also post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. This will help spread provide  exposure as well as a genuine sale. Even for those books that weren’t for me there will be a benefit, as they too will get an extra sale, bumping the book up the charts giving much-needed visibility.

Where do you come in?

I’d like to start a supportive community of indie authors, similar to what I’ve seen with the indie musicians. If you are an indie author, or you are a prospective author, or even if you are a friend of an independent author; I would encourage you to do the same me and commit to buying work from lesser known indie authors. Many authors blog, or have Facebook or Twitter accounts. If you like a books you buy, pay it forward and tell people about it. Write an Amazon or Goodreads review. It will take only a few minutes but as you know it would mean a lot to the author concerned. Even a small number of us doing this will make a big difference, but the more that take part, the more we can support our community.

If you are interested in getting involved, please feel free to reblog this to help get the momentum going. I’m halfway through my first indie book (which I’m loving) and hope to get post about my first recommended read next week.

Thank you for your time.

90 thoughts on “Pay it forward

  1. Reblogged this on A Writer's Notepad and commented:
    This is a first for me. I’ve never reblogged somebody else’s post before. But I believe in what Dylan is recommending and I’d like to lend my support. I was at the London Writers Fair (apparently no apostrophe!) yesterday, at an afternoon session organised by literary agency Curtis Brown. There was a publisher there, Jeremy Trevathan of Pan Macmillan, who made a very interesting point. He said that self-publishing was driving the quality of mainstream publishing outupt UP. He said that whilst there are sub-standard books in self-publishing world, there are increasing numbers of great books being self-published – and they are the sort of books which, 20 or so years ago, would have been published through the mainstream outlets. He said that publishers increasingly have to look for the books which are outstandingly different, groundbreaking even, leaving good and even great books in the indie space. I think indie publishers should be encouraged by this as self-publishing carves a quality niche for itself. Those adventurous enough to read around the indie marketplace will come across many gems and much quality, but we need help to sift and select. Reviews are a great way to learn about good books which one might otherwise miss. Go Dylan!

    • Thank you Jools. It is true that there are a lot of good writers out there struggling to get heard. Each of us do our best to promote our own work, and there are a number of reviewers who will do the same, but if each of us indie authors bought other indie books on a regular basis (as opposed to giving them away or paying for the privilege of being reviewed)*, and recommended those they liked on their blog / twitter account as well as goodreads and Amazon, it would provide not just income but much needed visibility as well.
      *I have no issue with either of these options, but I feel we can do more to help ourselves too.

  2. This sounds like what I do, though I could also focus more on reaching outside of my usual genres. I’ve met so many lovely indie authors through blogging, and have purchased their books. I’m reading a few contemporary romances ATM (not usually my thing), and will review if I enjoy them. It’s hard to say where to draw the line to not review, though. I’m not comfortable giving less than four stars to someone I know personally, so like you I simply don’t review if I didn’t enjoy it.

    Actually, my indie book buying is getting to the point where I see an interesting book and am slightly disappointed when it’s traditionally published, and I have to think about whether it’s worth the money to buy it anyway. 🙂

    The only problem is that I need to make more time to read, because my TBR list is too long!

    Thanks for an interesting post.

    • That’s great! I knew that there are a number of other authors who do “pay it forward” already but I’m trying to encourage even more! Your point about reviews is a good one. I decided to list the books as recommended reads because I didn’t want to be in a situation of writing reviews. Having written a novel (and being part way through my second) I know just how much work is involved. This way I feel comfortable that my credibility remains intact without being put in the position of writing a negative review of something somebody has put so much work into.

      Thanks so much for dropping by.

      • Yeah, I’m a lot less judgemental about books now that I know how hard it is to write them! I don’t rate them higher, but I’m kinder about what I say about them. 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on amusing2write's Blog and commented:
    Since getting a nook I have read the first books that were free and gone on to purchase the next in the series. I have slacked off in leaving reviews but reading Dylan’s post reminds me I need to get back to leaving reviews. Also I am currently reading the third book in a series called the Cat’s Eye Chronicle by T.L Shreffler if you like fantasty. So far there are three novels and a short story leading to book four. So there’s one down and a boatload to go. Cheers and thank you for the post Dylan.

    • Hi, thanks for stopping by and for your support for the idea. It’s such a simple concept but I think one that can be really effective if enough of us become involved.

      • Hi Dylan, I enjoyed your blog, and agree with the concept to Pay it Forward. In fact, a number of my Indie Author friends and I have been doing just that for quite some time. I ‘ve found it extremely rewarding.

      • One of the most rewarding things since I wrote this post (and I spoke about this in the follow-up) is finding out how many other authors already do this. The writing community, for the most, is incredibly supportive. Thank you for dropping by and keep up the good work in supporting your fellow authors 🙂

    • Thanks, Andrew. What I’ll be producing is recommendations, rather than reviews. There are people – like yourself – who are much better at that than I am. I plan to provide a rough synopsis and a few brief reasons why I enjoyed it. For me the important part os to put my money where my mouth is by buying the books, then spreading the love as much as possible for those I enjoy.

  4. Already there 🙂 I review (for free) indie published books. Sadly, I get so many requests that I regularly have to put a moratorium on (like now).

    It’s a great idea and I agree that many don’t do enough to support each other.

    • I think it’s great that people like yourself review indie books. The fact that you have been snowed under with requests shows how important and valued they are. I think what I’m proposing is complementary to reviews because it would be an authors way of putting something back. I’m not proposing authors to review books per se, just to buy independently published books more and recommend those they like through the platforms available to them (blogging, amazon, goodreads etc.)
      I’m glad you like the idea and you are right that many indie authors (myself included up to now) could do more to support our community.

  5. I’m with you on this Dylan, a great post which I will re-blog. I tend to ‘swtich off’ when I receive an automatic promotion message on Twitter. I follow my instinct and started to order, and review, self published new works a while back. I review when I am engaged by the work. I will also promote a great new read through fb, my blog, Twitter and the like. I’m happy to join your initiative. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jane. I’m so pleased you want to join in with the initiative. I think for a lot of us it isn’t that we don’t care, it’s just that we often struggle to find time to write and promote our own work, let alone support others. I think by committing to purchase indie books, and recommending those that we like, we can support authors without putting too large a burden on ourselves.

      • Absolutely Dylan, there are only so many hours in the day and this seems an uplifting way of being supportive. 🙂

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  7. This is really important Dylan and what a wonderful thing you are doing here. Of course, I’m still writing my book as you well know and nowhere near this process. I’m also keeping up with my blogging and some freelance work and my problem at the moment is getting time to read books as well! I’m waiting to buy yours in paperback (as you know I don’t have an e -reader at the moment) when I’m caught up and I will most definitely review it on Amazon and Goodreads. Helping one another out in this business is all-important and this is a great reminder of how vital these reviews (the good ones of course!) are to indie publishers. I look forward to your recommendations 🙂

  8. This is a great idea. As an onlooker to an almost published indie author, all the help writers can give each other is vital.
    Dylan – your book is moving up my pile and I will definitely put a review on Amazon for you once I’ve read it. I have a colleague who is in the process of sending her manuscript off all over the place – I will send her a link to this so she can consider going the indie route.
    Thanks for your generous support to all writers everywhere 🙂

    • I’m really looking forward to reading your review. If your colleague has a dream of becoming a published author, encourage her to keep sending off her manuscript and if nobody bites, try again with another. Self-publishing is no panacea and can be just as demoralising as receiving a rejection from an agent (or even worse, silence). If, however, she understands the pros and cons of self publishing and still wants to go ahead, I’d be more than happy to help.

      • Absolutely! Thanks for the comment and I do believe things like this make a big difference. It can be so hard to be heard over the thousands of books out there but we can stick together and make it a little bit easier 🙂

  9. Great post! I’m 100% with you on this and have virtually “met” many wonderful indie authors in this fashion. The more indie authors support one another, the more our books will gain exposure. Thanks for this post!

  10. What a man! Like you, I’ve found authors I like and tend to stick with them, with only the occasional indie book slipping into my Kindle. Even then, I haven’t been very active with the reviews. All that will change. Thank you, Dylan.

    • You’re welcome! I think many of us are/were in the same situation. I’m not suggesting we should stop reading traditionally published books, just rebalance things to support our community and spread the word on those we’ve enjoyed. I look forward to reading some of your recommendations!

  11. Reblogged this on graemecummingdotnet and commented:
    I hesitated over adding this to my blog because my minor essays aren’t really about writing. But they are about learning lessons from life and, ultimately, one of those great lessons is that by helping others, we become better people….

  12. A friend of mine from writer’s group reviews books for other people on She enlisted my help to get more reviews for these authors. I was recieving pdf’s of their work for review.
    I hated giving negative reviews because I think customers read them more than positive ones. How I solved it was to read the book. If I liked it, I would leave a review. If not, I would contact author with comments and suggestions (used same voice for all characters, editing distracted from story, inconsistent with storyline, overwriting, etc.) and also give specific examples. However, that means reading takes much longer than it used to. I feel it’s a way to help support the author either way. I know I appreciate all critiques but would prefer the negatives to be more constructive and less public.

    • Yes, couldn’t agree more. Any writer with a heart wants other writers to succeed and ravaging them in public won’t help (unless it’s Stephen King – he can ravage one of my books any day as the residual sales would still be huge). Public praise, privately encourage with constructive criticism is definitely the way to go.
      Thanks for the great comment.

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  14. Dylan,
    I’m happy that I came across your blog and am looking forward to reading your book. It looks great. But I have to finish writing my own dystopian thriller trilogy first so that I don’t inadvertantly steal any of your ideas! I’m on the third one, so it shouldn’t be too long.
    Your suggestion is super. I read constantly anyway, except when at work, so might as well find some of the great indie reads out there. But first I have to finish the Rex Stout I’m working on.

    • Hi Victoria, thanks for dropping by. You’re on your third book? Congratulations. I’m coming to the end of the 1st draft of my second and the finish line seems a long way away. I don’t blame you for waiting and I hope you enjoy the book when you finally get to read it.
      I’m so pleased the post has encouraged you to read the work of indie authors. I look forward to checking yours out too!

  15. This type of initiative is exactly what the indie writing world needs. I believe there are many small movements around the web with the same idea as you – what we need to do is bring them all together and take advantage of our numbers (which outnumber the trad authors immensely!)

    • Thank you, Tim, and thank you very much for the reflagging this and for retweeting. I wondered why my smartphone was going crazy as I was cooking the evening meal, now I know why.
      I’m so pleased that there are other, like-minded folk out there. As you say, kets try and keep the momentum building…

  16. Reblogged this on blindoggbooks and commented:
    I made a new contact this morning…Dylan Hearn is an Indie Author with a the right attitude.
    I know there are many of us out there with the same thought…it would be nice if we could come together and let our numbers work for us!

  17. Reblogged this on Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing and commented:
    Here’s a new-to-me blogger and Indie Author who has a great idea on how we can all help each other to promote our books and find new readers. It’s a familiar tune, but one worth singing again! Thanks, Dylan! (And Tim Baker for bringing this blogger to my attention.)

    • Dylan, I created a blog in Nov. 2013 dedicated to promoting authors, both trad. and self-published, and to help us all find new readers. These blog posts aren’t reviews, but they do offer all the info about the author and their books in order to help readers select their next great read. Please have a look … … and if you or any indie authors reading this are interested in being featured, please contact me through the blog. You would be very welcome in our community!

      Thank you so much for embracing this initiative and encouraging others to do the same. It’s a subject I’ve been railing on about for some time now, both as a promoter of authors and as an Indie Author myself. You may read a recent blog post about the subject here: So thanks for harmonizing on this old tune! We need all the voices joining us we can find!

      Susan M. Toy

      • Hi Susan, many thanks for your kind comments. I knew (or at least hoped) that my post wouldn’t be the first of its type and I’ve been very pleased with the reaction it has got, both from authors who are already there and those that have agreed to carry the torch.
        I’ve just read your blog you linked to. What a great message – that you have not only promoted other authors but have sold books and received reviews on the back of it.
        I look forward to joining with you and encouraging more authors to join with us in the pay it forward movement.

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  19. I really like the idea but I only read about 10 books a year so I’d feel bad joining in with something like this when I can put so little back. However, I have been doing a spot on my blog to introduce my 10s of followers to new authors in a fun way. So if anyone here would like to have a go at Box 010: a popular spot which is, in no way, based upon the popular Radio 4 show, Room 101 please feel free to get in touch.

    A lot of people who like my book say it’s something they’d never read normally, too. Maybe it’s something in the Suffolk water… Unless there’s a Suffolk in the us? You are in the British Suffolk right?



    • Don’t feel bad. One of the great things I’ve discovered since starting this are the many short stories being offered by indie authors, a format I would never have bought otherwise. I’m not saying indie authors should force themselves to read more (though reading is essential for any writer), just that when you do buy a book, consider supporting your indie author community too.
      There is a Suffolk in the US but I’m definitely of the straw-sucking, tractor-loving English variety. 😉

      • Luckily of the 10 or so books I read in a year, nearly all are indie published. So I feel better about that now. You’re right about shorts, and I’m a stay at home Mum so kids books for the 5 year old are good, too.

        I come from Sussex but I live in Bury St Edmunds now.



      • Sorry, forgot to add… there have been a couple of books that are quite like mine, either in the basic idea being dealt with or with plots that I think will appeal to my readers. So I’ve started to suggest three books that I’ve really enjoyed to my readers in the back of my books. I think the technical term is partnership marketing, as I believe the authors recommend my books too.



      • And that’s 10 more books than a large percentage of the population ever reads in a year, MT, so you’re already ahead, if you want to start recommending even just one Indie book a month. Who knows … you may influence one or two of your readers to begin doing the same and that would then add to this tsunami of reading and promotion I hope is now being created. (I love your “partnership marketing” suggestion and believe that’s another way we can all incorporate long-term promotion of our colleagues into our own books. Great idea!)

  20. Fabulous idea! Self-published authors will really appreciate the help, especially with the market as saturated as it is. I only review books I have liked on my own book review site too as I have no interest in writing negative reviews either. There are some fabulous self published authors out there and it is so easy for these good writers to get lost in the deluge so paying it forward is always a welcome concept.

    • Thank you. I’ve been so pleased since writing this to find that there are a number of other, like-minded people out there. We just need to keep spreading the word!

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  22. A great post, reminding us we need to be supportive and above all else kind. I will reblog but not on mudpilewood, (on I love your idea to put a page up with recommendations of books we writers have read and wouldn’t it be great to get the writer of the book to put a small paragraph in too?

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